Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Disney in Review - The Shows

One thing I didn't expect about Disney was the number of shows there were to watch! From stunt shows, to fireworks displays, to musicals - Disney has it covered.

The very first show we saw was Lights, Motors, Action! at Hollywood Studios.  I wasn't sure how Ethan would handle the incredibly loud noises, but he loved it! Actually, I'm not sure who enjoyed it more - him or Jeramie.  It was loaded with action and, of course, everyone loved it when this guy made an appearance...

All of the stunts were pretty awesome, and fire always makes things a little more interesting!

Ethan was a tad bit concerned for that guy in the fire suit, though.

See? I told you Jeramie loved it!

More exciting than that, though, was when he was picked later in the day to participate in the Indiana Jones stunt show.  Jonathan has seen this show multiple times and prepped Jeramie to make the biggest scene possible when they asked for volunteers.  For those of you who know my husband, you know that task was a piece of cake for him, and you're not surprised that he ended up on stage!

Passing his "audition" with flying colors!

Waving to his adoring fans after his big debut.

Later that evening, we were able to catch the late showing of Fantasmic!, a stunning fireworks/lights display and water show.  Ethan was not a fan of the "scary parts" involving the villains from various Disney movies, but absolutely loved the ending - as did I.  Big parenting props to Jeramie for tying the "good guy", "bad guy" theme into a conversation with Ethan about our faith, and props to Disney for those fireworks.  Unbelievable!

At Animal Kingdom, I had the opportunity to go up on stage with another guy to participate in Flights of Wonder.  The trainer sat us on a crate and told us to get our cameras ready.  In a matter of seconds, this was flying towards our heads...

I wish it had turned out a little better 'cause that was one HUGE owl, and it perched about 4 inches above my head.

Probably my favorite shows of the whole week, though, were Finding Nemo - The Musical and Festival of the Lion King.  We had front row seats to both and I was so impressed with the sheer amount of talent that goes into a couple of 30-minute shows.  I seriously wanted each of them to last way longer than they did!


I have one more post on tap and it's all about the magic of Disney.  There are moments etched on my heart that I don't think I'll ever forget, but I don't plan to take any chances.  That's what the blog's for, right?!

Hope y'all are having a happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Disney in Review - The Food

Before the trip, I asked Jeramie what he was most excited about.  He had never been to Disney before, so he really had no idea what to expect.  We had, however, talked a lot about the restaurants where we would eat, so he answered eagerly with, "The food!".

And, let me tell y'all - it was for good reason! I can think of - maybe - a couple times in my life when I've eaten better than we did at Disney.  You know when you've gotten to the end of your vacation and you look at the menu and think, "Do I really want to eat filet again tonight??", that you've been well-fed.

With our dining plan, each person was entitled to two snacks and three meals each day.  We used our snack credits to buy things like bottled water, cream cheese-filled pretzels and, more importantly, Dole Whips.  Heavens to Betsy - those things were UH.MAZING!

Instead of using our meal credits for three full meals each day, we doubled up on two of the credits in order to eat at the signature restaurants each night.  The third credit was used for either breakfast or lunch, and we just snacked through the day until dinner.  It was a genius plan (created by our Disney-expert friends), as I'm not sure I could have eaten three full meals each day anyway, and it allowed us to experience some pretty amazing dinners!

I know a few of you have been curious to know where we ate, and I don't want to depend on our Google Calendar to remind me five years down the road, so here's the breakdown:

Day 1: Lunch at Crystal Palace and dinner at Narcoossee's 

Lunch was buffet-style with Pooh and friends.  I ate lobster tail at dinner, for the first time, and felt compelled to take a photo of my dessert.  We learned that Ethan is a big fan of crab cakes!

Strawberry Shortcake will never taste the same again.

Day 2: Lunch at Mama Melrose's and dinner at The Hollywood Brown Derby

Ethan tried calamari at lunch and duck at dinner.  He didn't like either of them, but I give him credit for trying! I learned what a "prawn" is and proceeded to devour it.

Day 3: Breakfast at Chef Mickey's and dinner at Cinderella's Royal Table

This was a big day of character dining! Breakfast was buffet-style with Mickey and friends, and eating dinner inside the castle was a pretty awesome experience.

Wishing upon a star.

Day 4: Breakfast at Kouzzina by Cat Cora and dinner at California Grill

Breakfast was later in the morning, at our resort, which was a nice change of pace.  Dinner was at the top of The Contemporary, and offered jaw-dropping views of the Magic Kingdom! Oh, and dinner was exceptional - from the service, to the atmosphere, to the food itself.

Celebrating Jackson's 3rd birthday!

Day 5: Lunch at Coral Reef and dinner at the Yachtsman

We dined with sharks, sea turtles, and scuba divers at lunch, which was followed by Ethan's Epic Epcot Meltdown of 2012.  He eventually passed out, and woke up just in time to "paint" a white chocolate puzzle at dinner.

Day 6: Breakfast at the Tusker House and dinner at Sanaa

Tusker House is another buffet-style character dining experience, featuring Donald Duck and his safari friends.  I tried African-inspired, Indian-flavored food for the first time at dinner and drank a lot of water!

Day 7: Lunch at 50's Prime Time Cafe and a grande finale dinner at ...... McDonald's in the Orlando International Airport

Lunch was cute and came with strict instructions to keep our elbows off the table! Dinner was, well, depressing.

So, all that to say - the food was much to be excited about! We made guesses on how many calories we consumed each day, but quickly made ourselves feel better as we compared it to the miles of walking we did.  I was extremely proud of how well the little guys did at all of the fancy restaurants, which has made me increasingly more willing to try a family dinner at, say, Chili's.

Now ... if I could just find someone to cook a filet (or three) for me each week!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Shutterfly giveaway - I loved reading about your holiday favorites!

There were 21 comments in all and I used to choose the lucky winner.

So ... survey says?!

Commenter #14, and the winner of $50 off their next Shutterfly order, is...

..."the cheese thief"...


Please send me an e-mail at joyemullis{at}gmail{dot}com with your name and e-mail address so that the friendly folks over at Shutterfly can send you your promo code.

Happy weekend!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Disney in Review - The Characters

Aside from the flight, the one thing I was most nervous about was how Ethan would react to the many characters roaming around the Disney parks and restaurants! As early as Easter of this year, he wanted nothing to do with characters of any sort, so I crossed my fingers and hoped that he had gotten over the fear.

As you can see, he most certainly did!

Tigger, Pooh, and friends were the first characters we met at The Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom.  Once I saw his reaction to those guys, I knew he would love the rest!

There's a super sweet story behind this particular meet and greet, which I'll share a little later...

The Fab Five, in their various get-ups...

One of my favorites.  Ethan loves him some Goofy, and this picture totally captures it!

Lightning McQueen and Mater - the longest character line we waited in all week, but well worth the wait!

One of the many lovely ladies Ethan met at Cinderella's Royal Table...

Then, of course, there were the parades with characters galore.  It seemed as if they just popped up out of nowhere, and I loved them! I particularly liked The Main Street parade in Magic Kingdom and the Pixar Parade in Hollywood Studios...

... and I'd say Ethan liked them too!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Disney in Review - The Rides

For those of you who know me pretty well, you know that thrill rides are not my thing.  As in, I cried riding Space Mountain during my first trip to Disney when I was eight eighteen.  My best friend from high school suggested that I should have a do-over, of sorts, during this trip - but I wasn't having any of that!

In fact, I thought that having my thirty-nine-inch-three-year-old with me would give me protection from any of the rides that might elicit bodily fluids of any kind.  Who could have guessed that Ethan would have grown an inch before our trip and would be every bit of a roller coaster lover as his Daddy?!

We first learned that Ethan met the 40-inch height requirement at the front of Splash Mountain - a "really cute" (sarcasm) log flume ride that takes you through the tale of Brer Rabbit, then drops you 52 feet at 40 miles per hour into the briar patch.  (Just so you know, I Googled those facts.  I was entirely too consumed with squeezing the hand of Emma, my 8-year old riding mate, and burying my head in my lap to pay attention to those kinds of things.)

At the end of the ride, while I was still trying to determine if my shorts were wet from the ride or ... I hear the sweet little voice of a certain three year old pipe up in front of me and ask,

"Can we do it again?!"

We didn't.

I did suck it up and ride Goofy's Barnstormer with him (go ahead - laugh away), and that concluded my roller coaster riding at Disney.

Now, the teacups? I could have spun on those bad boys all day long! Especially with this sweet face looking back at me...

The Magic Carpets of Aladdin was the very first ride we rode, which was later followed by Dumbo, and a similar flying-dinosaur ride in Animal Kingdom. 

Mama likes.

Another personal favorite was Soarin' in Epcot.  I rode that one twice and could have ridden it many more times after that! For someone who doesn't love heights, I was kind of surprised that I liked it as much as I did.  It probably had something to do with the fact that it was simulated.  And the scents of the orange groves and pine trees didn't hurt, either!

Ethan was super excited to "drive" the cars at the Tomorrowland Speedway in the Magic Kingdom.  His little face peeking out behind the steering wheel just makes me smile!

Out of them all, though, our family's favorite ride - hands down - was Toy Story's Midway Mania!

Thanks to Ethan's Guest Assistance Pass - if you or your child goes to Disney with a disability of any kind, make sure you get this pass! - we were able to ride Midway Mania a total of three times.  And, with any of the rides that Ethan rode, our wait time was less than 20 minutes.  I'm telling you - get the pass!

But, back to Toy Story.  Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin was another Toy Story inspired ride in the Magic Kingdom that we liked a lot, but this one in Hollywood Studios was by far our favorite! It was an interactive 4D ride and we couldn't get enough of it.

The safari in Animal Kingdom didn't disappoint, either! I was pleasantly surprised with how much room the animals had to roam, yet how close we were to them.  It was a very neat experience, indeed.

Jeramie would tell you to be sure to ride the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster and Expedition Everest, but I'm not going to endorse any of that crazy talk here on my blog.

It's a Small World, though? Throw your hands in the air and have at it!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Disney in Review - The Parks

Oh, the parks! I have such a hard time comprehending the amount of imagination and hard work it took to create the four main parks of Disney World.  They were each spectacular in their own way, offering up their own magic and good times!

Our park line-up looked a little something like this:

Day 1 - Magic Kingdom

Waking up at 4:15 in the morning will do it to ya.

Day 2 - Hollywood Studios

Day 3 - Magic Kindgom

Have you ever cried through a fireworks display? Go see "Wishes" and tell me tears don't prick your eyes.

Day 4 - "Off" day - Typhoon Lagoon (read: lazy river)

Day 5 - Epcot

Day 6 - Animal Kindgom

Day 7 - Hollywood Studios

I've been asked a few times which park was my favorite and, although I originally answered with Hollywood Studios, I honestly don't think I can say one was better than the other.  They were each special in their own right and are the homes to memories that will leave a lasting impression on this mama's heart.

Although, any day now, my mind's eye can let go of the image of Ethan losing his ever-lovin' mind in the middle of Epcot.  I'll call five days of little sleep and no meltdowns a massive success, but boy did he make up for it...

Thankfully, he and I were able to do something super special together before he freaked out on us.  Our travel buddies told us about a place in Japan at Epcot where you can choose an oyster from a bed of rocks and watch them extract a pearl from it.  Christy has a tradition of having her kids pick out an oyster for her each time they go, and she encouraged me to do the same with Ethan.  I am so glad I did.  Ethan picked a great one, and I had the pearl set into a gorgeous new ring!

Now that's my kind of souvenir!

I'll leave off with a few other photos from each park, and I'll be back later to share our favorite rides...

The man and his mouse in Magic Kingdom

Hollywood Studios at night


Goofing off in Epcot

Post-breakfast dancing in Animal Kingdom

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